What’s the Difference Between a Marketing Agency and a Social Media Company?

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It can be confusing today looking for help with your social and digital marketing, especially with all the different terms out there:  Social media company, social media marketing, social media agency, content marketing agency, inbound marketing company, social media management, internet marketing and it goes on and on.


If a company only handles social media, it may mean they only post short pieces of content on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.  They may ask you to provide the content and they will simply post it or schedule it for you.  Some will monitor questions or comments that come in on those posts and some do not. A social media company should also handle community management, which includes responding to comments or questions along with growing your online communities.


A content marketing or content creation company might just provide the copywriters or content for your blogs, social media posts, websites etc. Content marketing has to be a big focus whichever way you go since you will need not only blog posts and social media posts, but content pieces such as eBooks, tip sheets, resource guides, etc. to use as lead magnets if you are to grow your email list.


A marketing agency, (and some immediately think of the old advertising agency model, like Mad Men) might be focused on print or television media as well as coming up with campaign ideas and then outsource the daily social media activities. Many will handle campaign creation, maybe digital assets and then outsource the rest.


While the term, “inbound marketing” is often interchangeably with “content marketing” they can vary in the results they expect to produce.  Some inbound companies focus on the sales funnel and creating content pieces that drive people to the funnel, so they might create lead magnets, email follow-up or drip campaigns, blog content, and social media posts.

If you are like most organizations, you might need a bit of each.  You want someone to help you come up with creative ways to reach your ideal customers, write or produce the content that appeals to these customers and follow this all the way through from content to results.  After all, it’s about getting more people to become aware of you and your brand and then to encourage more to consider hiring you or buying your products or services.


It’s important to ask lots of questions when looking to hire someone to help you with your marketing.  Some think if they hire a marketing or social media company, customers will walk in the door to make a purchase the next day.  While this certainly can happen, it’s like saying you heard a commercial or saw an article in a magazine today and immediately went out to buy the item advertised.  While that happens, especially if you are really hungry and you see an ad or commercial for a big juicy burger or VooDoo donuts, the reality is, most of us are not running burger or donut shops.

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Hungry Yet?

Marketing is about making a connection with people.  A connection via content that can be written, recorded on video or audio, or even through a simple photo that disappears in 10 seconds (SnapChat). After this initial connection is made, a relationship is hopefully started and through more exposure to your content, this relationship is nurtured and you continue to provide value and information until the person feels they trust you and that you are the answer they have been searching for.  This could take hours, days or years, depending, typically, on your sales cycle, the price point of your product or service and when each person actually has a need.

If you have a salesperson or sales team, they could be taking the leads that are coming in from the marketing campaigns and following up to close the sales. The more targeted your content is (meaning, you shouldn’t be posting your content on LinkedIn if you are trying to reach teens, and you probably don’t want to be running ads for high-end luxury cars during Judge Judy), the quicker the return will be on your investment and the more qualified your leads are for the sales team.

If I create a resource guide to help a homeowner stage their home to increase their sales price by $10,000. I know the people who download this piece are LIKELY to be selling their home soon. If I create a piece of content that shows the top interior designs in Hollywood, anyone would download this. It doesn’t qualify the lead enough, so the more targeted your content pieces are, the easier it is to identify where in your sales funnel this prospect is.

Many marketing agencies have had to adapt and begin using the new tools with social media, and many early social media management companies are having to step back and make sure they are incorporating a more holistic marketing approach that goes beyond a few posts on Facebook.  Take some time to figure out what you need to grow your business and then make sure you are hiring a person or company that can partner with you to make that happen. Ask lots of questions and get all of your expectations down in writing to eliminate or minimize disappointment later on.

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Gina Schreck, social marketing  @GinaSchreck

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